While everyone's bodies are different, one of the most coveted fitness goals for many is a perfectly round booty.

However, achieving that usually involves more than simply getting in time at the squat rack. That butt shelf requires activating the upper glutes, not only for aesthetics but functionality, too.

If you’re on the hunt for the perfect upper glute workout to achieve both, we have you covered with all the glute exercises you’ll ever need. Let’s jump right in!

You may be wondering how to put all of these specific exercises together. How many reps should you do? Which exercise comes before which? We're here to answer all of that for you with the following tried-and-true glute workout plans.

Glute Medius Focus

This training plan really hones in on the upper glutes, isolating rather than focusing on heavy weight.





Lateral Leg Raises


12-15 per side

1-2 minutes

Banded Lateral Walks


12-15 per leg/direction

1-2 minutes

Clam Shells


12-20 per side

1-1.5 minutes

Hip Abduction Machine or Cable Abductions


10-15 per leg

Whole Glute Workout

This workout not only focuses on the gluteus medius but the gluteus maximus and minimus, as well.

This routine requires you to perform exercises that will give you that round shape so many are looking to achieve. They’re a mixture of both isolation and lower-body exercises so you’re also improving overall mechanics, as well.





Hip Thrust



1.5-2 minutes

Curtsy Squat


12-15 per leg

2 minutes

Fire Hydrant Kicks


12-15 per leg

1-1.5 minutes

Dumbbell Front Squat


12-15 per leg

1.5-2 minutes

Back Extensions


12-15 per leg /
Until failure

12 Best Upper Glute Exercises For Growth and Strength Gains

None of our muscles really work alone, so when we’re talking about targeting the upper glutes, we’re usually working both the gluteus medius and the upper gluteus maximus/upper glute max.

That means that if we want to grow and strengthen the upper glutes, we need to move beyond isolation exercises alone.

The following exercises are incredibly efficient at targeting the upper portion of this muscle group, and we'll show you why.

1. Clam Shell

Woman Doing Clamshell Exercises with Resistance Band

Lifting heavy weights isn't always necessary for making big gains in appearance or strength, and clam shells are the perfect example of that. The exercise is called this way because the leg movements look like a mollusk opening.

Don't let the weird title fool you, though - they're perfect for (relatively) isolating the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. Oh, and if you experience spinal pain, you'll like these, too as it places little strain on your back. 

My clients love this movement as they get to lie down while still engaging their glutes. 


  • Isolates your glutes.
  • Suitable for all abilities. 
  • You get to lie down (which is always welcome during leg day). 

How To Do It:

  1. Lay on your side, hips stacked and knees bent 45 degrees.
  2. Keep your head supported on your upper arm, keeping your core engaged to protect the spine.
  3. While keeping feet stuck together and in a controlled movement, lift and rotate your upper knee out as high as possible without moving the hips or pelvis. Make sure you aren’t moving backwards, either.
  4. Bring the knee back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat until failure before rolling over and switching legs.

Tips From A Trainer!

If unable to prevent yourself from leaning backward, start with your back up against a wall. 

2. Weighted Hip Thrust

man doing barbell hip thrust

The barbell hip thrust completely pulverizes the glute muscles, working the entire posterior chain! These hip thrusts utilize both gravity and the added weight to challenge you, strengthening the glute medius, maximus, and minimus.

I ABSOLUTELY love this exercise. In my opinion, it's one of the best glute exercises around and gives you the most bang for your buck. 

To grow butt muscles quickly, you need to have these in your training program.

However, if you don't have a barbell in your home gym, you can try doing hip thrust alternatives.


  • You can overload your glutes.
  • Isolates your glutes.
  • Suitable for all abilities. 

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on the floor with your back resting against a bench that isn’t going to slide or move around. Position your shoulder blades on the top of the bench.
  2. Keep your legs extended, rolling the barbell over or placing it across your hips.
  3. While holding the weight firmly across your hip flexors, bend your legs, driving up through your feet flat on the floor.
  4. Drive your heels into the ground, pushing through and lifting your hips until your knees, hips, and shoulders are all aligned.
  5. Lower glutes back to the floor and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Place a small resistance band (or glute loop) above your knees during this movement. By doing so, you'll work your glutes laterally too as you push your legs against the band. This will increase your overall glute activation.  

3. Curtsy Squat

Woman Doing Curtsy Squat Exercise

This body weight exercise will surely have all three glute muscles burning! This is one of those secret weapons for sculpting and strengthening the legs and butt muscles, and it helps improve balance, too.

I love this movement as it works each leg individually, so you can iron out any muscular imbalances. I always use this exercise with my clients. 

However, I must note that not everyone will find this movement comfortable. As you're lunging across your body, it can place force through your knee joint. This can create aggravation if you're prone to knee pain. If this happens, try another exercise from this list instead.


  • Irons out muscular imbalances.
  • Uses your body weight. 
  • Works all areas of your glutes.

How To Do It:

  1. Keep your shoulders back with your abs tight.
  2. Drop your right foot diagonally behind your left foot, keeping your front thigh parallel to the floor while your front foot is pointing straight ahead.
  3. Your knees should create 90-degree angles
  4. Return to your starting position, switching legs

Tips From A Trainer!

Want to turn up the burn? Add a small weighted plate or dumbbell into the mix. By adding some weight you'll stimulate your muscle fibers more. 

Related Article - Do Squats Make You Shorter?

4. Side-lying Leg Lifts

Woman Doing Side-Lying Leg Lifts

If you’re looking for an upper glute workout that won’t aggravate or cause knee pain, try this glute growth exercise.

If you have a carpet or mat at home, you can do these practically anywhere. No experience is required! In addition to targeting your glutes, you’ll also be strengthening your inner thigh.

I've used this exercise with many of my clients as part of a finisher. Yet, it can work well as a primary exercise which is suitable for all abilities. 


  • Isolates your glutes. 
  • Works each side individually. 
  • Suitable for all abilities. 

How To Do It:

  1. Start by lying on your right side with feet stacked on top of each other and your head resting on your right upper arm.
  2. Keep both legs straight, lifting your left leg off the ground, and keeping your pelvis still.
  3. Slowly bring your leg back down to the starting position.
  4. Make sure your torso and legs stay straight.

Tips From A Trainer!

Add a small ankle weight or use a resistance band to make this movement slightly tougher. Your glutes will thank you for it. 

5. Lateral Lunge

Man Doing Lateral Lunges

Lateral lunges are exactly what the name says... they're lunges performed to the side rather than forwards and backwards. 

You can do regular lateral lunges or, for added difficulty, dumbbell lateral lunges. They're both effective for targeting gluteal muscles and perfect for beginners and more advanced athletes alike.

They're a great exercise for most ability levels, but I've found some beginners may struggle to perform the lateral lunge due to not having the base strength needed for the movement.


  • Uses your body weight. 
  • Works your glutes using a wide range of motion. 
  • Suitable for most abilities. 

Related Article - Benefits Of Doing Lunges

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big step to one side with your left leg, bending your knee slightly over your toes, bending at the hips a bit.
  3. Push off with your left foot, moving back to the center/start position.
  4. Repeat on the right side.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're struggling to balance during this movement, place something in front of you such as a chair (or face a squat rack) and use the item to help you maintain balance. 

6. Banded Walk

Woman Doing Banded Walk Exercise

I love doing these before the heavier upper butt exercises! These hip abduction exercises isolate really well, and you'll feel the burn! If you're a beginner, these are nice and simple to do, too.

I've often taken resistance bands with me while I travel, and I've found the banded walk to be the best glute exercise to perform in your hotel room. You can even do them in your office, home gym, or local park. 


  • Trains your glutes laterally. 
  • Useful as a warm up. 
  • You can do them anywhere. 

How To Do It:

  1. Grab a resistance band and put it around your legs, either just above or just below the knees.
  2. Maintain tension by keeping your feet shoulder width or wider apart.
  3. Bend your knees while pushing your hips back into a kind of shallow squat position
  4. Keeping knees bent, step sideways to stretch the band.
  5. Take a step with your left leg, then a step to the right, alternating. You can also choose to do many steps in one direction, then switch to the other direction.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't use a resistance band that's too strong. If you do, you won't be able to perform the movement correctly, which won't help your peach grow.  

7. Fire Hydrant Kicks

Woman Doing Fire Hydrant Kicks

Perfect for any fitness level, this exercise works the butt muscles yet requires no equipment at all. They're fantastic for mobility and can be done before or after any glute workout with weights.

They can help reduce back pain, improve posture, and generally make everyday activities like walking up the stairs more comfortable.

Why are they called fire hydrant kicks? Well, because the motion you make looks like a dog lifting its leg on a fire hydrant!

These are another glute exercise I've performed in my hotel room. 


  • You can do them anywhere. 
  • Suitable for everyone. 
  • Improves posture.

How To Do It:

  1. Get on your hands and knees, with your knees stacked under the hips and hands below the shoulders.
  2. This is known as a "quadruped position."
  3. Keep your core tight, maintaining a neutral spine with your chin tucked.
  4. Keeping your left knee and hip bent at a 90-degree angle, lift it up and out to the side.
  5. As you do this, make sure the rest of your body stays stationary.
  6. Raise your leg until you get to around a 45-degree angle (or less, if you can’t get there right now).
  7. The most important thing is that your knee and hip remain aligned.
  8. Keep your leg raised for 2 seconds, then lower it back down to your starting point in a slow and controlled manner.
  9. Repeat until failure on one leg, then switch legs and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you want to make these more challenging, try using ankle weights on both legs! 

8. Single-Leg Box Squat

Man Doing Single-Leg Box Squats

Box squats are already quite challenging, but using one leg makes it even more difficult.

However, the rewards are also greater, as standing on one leg increases gluteus minimus and medius recruitment as they now have to work harder to keep your hips stabilized.

As this movement is rather difficult, I'd recommend only intermediate and advanced gym goers try this exercise. If you're a beginner, you should try the regular box squat instead.


  • Great for more advanced lifters.
  • Works each side individually. 

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with your back to a knee-high box (or chair, step, bench, etc., if you don't have one). Make sure it's sturdy and won't move.
  2. Bend your supporting knee while simultaneously extending your other leg in front of you, until you’re sitting on the box/chair.
  3. Push your foot into the ground, get in your starting position, and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

This exercise is tougher than it sounds/looks. Make sure you master the body weight version BEFORE you start adding additional weight.  

9. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Man Doing Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts

The dumbbell RDL is one of my go-to glute and hamstring movements. I always add it to my glute workout as it stretches my glutes to the max during each rep.

As the exercise works your posterior chain, it helps you develop a stronger posterior chain, which in turn helps you avoid lower back injuries. 

While I've taught beginners this movement, it is complex, so if you're new to lifting I'd speak to a trainer and ensure you're performing the exercise correctly. You can also check out our guide on RDL alternatives for more exercises.


  • Great for injury prevention. 
  • Stretches your glutes and hamstrings. 
  • It's a compound movement.

How To Do It:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet placed hip width apart. 
  2. Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward from your hips while maintaining a neutral spine. 
  3. Slowly lower your body towards the floor and stop when you feel the maximum stretch in your hamstrings. 
  4. Drive your hips forward and return to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you want to target your glutes a little more, add a resistance band just above your knees. By having a band to push against, your glutes will activate more.  

10. Sumo Deadlift

woman doing sumo deadlifts at the gym

Deadlifts are one of the best exercises if you want to build muscle mass or improve overall biomechanics, making it a cornerstone exercise for many bodybuilding routines.

By simply changing to a wider stance, you'll be able to target upper glutes more effectively. This is a more advanced movement, so start with just the bar without the additional weight if you're starting out.

I love this deadlift variation as you can lift a large amount of weight which will stimulate your glutes for muscle growth. 


  • Uses less lower back and more glutes.
  • Ideal for advanced lifters. 
  • Allows you to lift a lot of weight.

How To Do It:

  1. Start with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, slightly turning out your toes to keep your knees protected.
  2. Keep knees bent over your toes (at the same angle), keeping your torso upright.
  3. Make sure the barbell is centered in front of you.
  4. Bend down to grab it, slowly lifting up while activating glutes until you have your legs straight.
  5. In a slow and controlled movement, lower the weight back down to the ground.

Tips From A Trainer!

If the barbell is slipping in your hands, use some chalk or lifting straps to assist you.  

11. Back Extensions

Woman Doing Back Extensions At The Gym

Back extensions are great for activating the entire posterior chain, but we have an alteration that will really make it one of the best upper butt exercises. For bodyweight exercises, it’s hard to beat this one.

By adjusting your foot position to a 45-degree angle, it places more emphasis on your glutes, making it a killer exercise for your workout routine.

However, if you don't have a back extension machine/bench available, try doing back extension alternative exercises that work the same muscles.


  • Develops your posterior chain. 
  • Doesn't require weight. 
  • Suitable for all abilities.

How To Do It:

  1. Get on the back extension machine/bench, keeping the pads a couple of inches below your hip flexors.
  2. Turn your feet out 45 degrees, creating an external rotation in each hip joint to further activate glutes.
  3. This also recruits the hamstrings less, isolating the glutes more effectively.
  4. Keep your legs straight and arms crossed over your chest, bending at the hips to lower your torso towards the ground.
  5. Engage the glutes, pulling yourself back up to the starting position.
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you want to increase the difficulty, you can hold a small weighted plate or ball (like a slam ball or medicine ball). 

12. Glute Bridge

Woman Doing Glute Bridges At Home

Glute bridges are kind of like the barbell hip thrusts but without the added weight. This makes it a more appealing movement for beginners or those who don't have equipment like a barbell or dumbbells at home. The glute bridge is sometimes called by the name lying hip raise.

I love this movement because of its simplicity. Even though it's simple, it's effective and will have your glutes burning. 


  • Uses your body weight. 
  • Suitable for all abilities. 
  • You can do them anywhere. 

How To Do It:

  1. Start by lying on your back - ideally on an exercise mat or carpet - with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Arms should be resting down by your sides or further out to the sides for added stability.
  3. Push feet into the floor and lift hips forward/up so they’re aligned with your knees and shoulders. You never want to hyperextend your spine.
  4. Lower your butt back to the floor, and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

To really isolate the upper glute muscles, use one leg at a time, doing a kind of single-leg hip thrust but on the ground. One-legged glute bridges can really bring muscles to failure, helping with growth in the long run. 

What Gym Machines Work Best The Upper Glutes?

While resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, and even our own body weight is great for muscle growth, machines are excellent for isolation.

For this purpose, the hip abduction machine and cable machine reign supreme.

Hip Abduction Machine

Seated hip abductions absolutely should be included in your workouts if you’re serious about developing a perfectly round booty.

How To Do It:
  1. Sit on the machine, placing your feet on the footrests, making sure the pads are placed perfectly against your outer knees.
  2. You can hold onto the handles for extra stability, but we find if you move your back off of the seat, you'll get a little bit of extra burn.
  3. Keep your abs flexed, and push your knees out against the pads to raise the weight.
  4. Move your knees back together, slowly, controlling the weight.
  5. Repeat.

Cable Machine

The cable machine hip abductions work the glute medius, minimus, and maximus and operate similarly to the banded hip abduction. To do this exercise safely, you’ll need an ankle cuff.

How To Do It:
  1. Put on your ankle cuff, making sure it won’t come loose or allow your foot to escape.
  2. Stand with your “working” leg away from the pulley, holding onto the machine for balance.
  3. Lift your working leg away from your body, keeping your leg straight and your hips aligned. You don’t want to flex at the waist.
  4. Lower your leg, and repeat.
  5. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Upper Glute Anatomy

The glutes are comprised of 3 muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

The muscle right where the back meets the glutes is called the "gluteus medius" or the "glute shelf." They're essential for hip extension, abduction (moving away from the center of the body), and external rotation.

Upper glute activation is about so much more than helping you achieve that shelf butt (albeit still very effective in that regard).

Benefits Of Strong Upper Glutes

Strengthening the upper glutes can improve your athletic abilities, such as running speed and increased strength.

You may even notice less lower back pain and experience far less (if any) injuries as they're incredibly strong stabilizers.

To expand on that, the upper glute muscles are crucial in hip stability along with the biomechanics and balance throughout the entire body.

With weak upper glute muscles, you may experience poor hip alignment. This could make even the simplest tasks more challenging and could even lead to an increased risk of spinal injury.[1]

Tips On How to Increase Your Upper Butt Shelf

To develop that coveted glute shelf, there are some tips that are crucial to incorporate going forward.

  1. 1
    Don’t Be Scared of the Upper Glute Exercise
    This probably isn't the case at this point, but you absolutely need to perform exercises we've detailed in this guide. Of course, not every single one will be your favorite, so you can pick and choose as you like.
  2. 2
    Focus on Gradual Progression
    Progressive overload is ideal for growing the glutes, which means you’ll be increasing the training difficulty over a longer period of time rather than going as heavy as possible, right away.[2]
    On the other end of the spectrum, you don't want to plateau and find that your muscles aren't growing any further because you're no longer challenging them.
  3. 3
    Consume Enough Calories
    You won't be able to gain muscle if you aren't eating enough.
  4. 4
    Consume Enough Protein
    You may already be consuming enough, but if not, bump that protein intake up. Protein supplies the amino acids necessary for building and repairing muscles. Without it, they cannot properly grow.[3]

Frequently Asked Upper Glute Exercises Questions

How long does it take to grow upper glutes?

While it may vary a bit per person, you'll typically start seeing results in 6 to 8 weeks, or even less. This is considering that you're really making an effort with your workouts, resting, and being consistent.

How do I know if my upper glute workout is working?

You'll know your upper glute workout is working because your upper glutes are sore, you're gaining strength, and you start noticing a change in their appearance.

Why won’t my upper glutes grow?

Your upper glutes are not growing because you aren’t consuming enough protein (0.7 to 1 gram per pound of body weight), not pushing yourself hard enough, not being consistent enough, not working your upper glutes until failure often enough, or not resting enough [4]. 

Can you change the shape of your glutes through exercise?

Yes, you can absolutely change the shape of your glutes! To build muscle, you can use light-to-moderate weights or bodyweight. Just make sure you're consuming enough calories (and protein) to synthesize muscle in order to change the shape of your glutes.

Can you workout your glutes two days in a row?

Yes, you can workout your glutes two days in a row, but it's probably not ideal. You're better off spreading those workouts out over the entire week to allow for the proper time for rest.

How many times a week should I workout to grow a butt?

Aim working out for 3 days if you want to grow a butt, at least to start. Three times a week is consistent enough that you'll see results, but it allows your muscles enough time to rest and recuperate, which is equally as important.

How do you target all three glutes?

Incorporate routines that include a variety of exercises. Squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts, side kicks, etc., are all fantastic options to target all three glutes. Doing these on the same days as your leg workouts is probably best, because of this.


By following our guide, you can pretty much count on having that butt shelf in the bag.

It absolutely takes dedication and serious effort into each workout, but it’s more than worth it. Simply choose a handful of the exercises from the list above and add them to your workout. 

Your glutes will be popping in no time at all. 


1. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/27/12/27_jpts-2015-691/_article
2. https://www.xperthealth.org.uk/x-pert-blogs/the-importance-of-exercise-progression/
3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/
4. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_importance_of_rest_and_recovery_for_athletes

Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.